“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” —Maya Angelou
Such a great quote. When you get it, you truly get it. It’s true that we are creatures of emotion (most of us anyway) and our strongest memories are those attached to strong emotions. Indeed we remember best what we feel the strongest.
And there is no more important scenario to remember this as when you are communicating with someone with memory deficits or dementia. As many of us have already learned, a loved one with dementia will often not remember what we said, or a story we share, or a name. But you can bet they will remember feelings. Love. Anger. Anxiety. Patience. Whichever you present, they will remember. Especially when it’s repeated, over time. And they will associate that feeling with you.
A typical (and unfortunate) example is the son or daughter who gets frustrated with their parent’s repeated phrases, or repeated stories, and say, “Don’t you remember you already told me that?!”. Or “I know that — you tell me every time!” A response where frustration comes oozing out. Turn the tables around and picture yourself without memory for facts and details — then someone close to you tells you the same thing. How would you feel?
The other typical (and wonderful) example we see is when the daughter or son is very loving and understanding of aging, and memory loss. I remember one daughter being so calm, peaceful and loving with her parent that it really was quite an amazing sight to see. And her mom, while not knowing her daughter’s name, definitely knew that she was with someone who loved her, and who wanted to be with her. It was very touching.
Whether with an aging loved one with cognitive changes or dementia, or with someone who may have done something that irked you, just remember, they may not always remember what you told them, or what you did, but they will always remember how you made them feel.